The Institute of Hydroponic Development

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Comic, Line Drawing, Monochromatic, Students

The Institute of Hydroponic Development

Ben Simpson 


The UK population is projected to increase by 9.7 million over the next 25 years from an estimated 64.6 million in mid-2014 to 74.3 million in mid-2039 (6). Two questions arise, Where will these people live? How do we feed this ever growing population?

The area of Brentford I have chosen to investigate is located adjacent to Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens in the London borough of Richmond Upon Thames. With a green belt consisting of over 300 acres this plot remains currently protected and unoccupied by any form of residential housing. For how long though can this remain? As London continues to expand the power and  wealth of overseas developers has the potential to force the purchase of Kew Gardens in order to provide properties for the future population overload.

With the measures set out in Mr Osborne’s 2016 Mansion speech it seems that our future shows the very real potential for complete urbanisation within  the Greater London area.

“If we want to limit development on important green spaces, we have to remove all the obstacles that remain to development on brown field sites.
Councils will be required to put local development orders on over 90% of brownfield sites that are suitable for housing.(7)”

“The cultivation, processing and distribution of food within the city – would have the two-fold effect of making these processes transparent and offering a means for the re-establishment of food and its reproduction as a social relationship
rather than a commodity.”(8)

Using CJ Lim’s ‘Smart Cities & Eco-Warriors’ as a main text I propose addressing the issue through applying an urban farming scheme in Brentford as an exemplar proposal for all of Greater London. In short, a research and development centre into the investigation of hydroponic growth of plants and crops. Coupled with an education centre for the community of Brentford to learn  agricultural skills and then apply such skills to the urban allotments located within Brentford and further afield, broadening community ties in the currently unstable social climate of Brentford.

In essence the objective is to investigate an archetypal response to balancing : construction, growing and production as a future proofing response to the impending urbanisation.


Who influences you graphically?
Graphically there are obvious influences from the work of CJ Lim and his tutored studio at the Bartlett, however on a deeper level the influences of Heath Robinson’s post-war illustration and his ridicule of the seemingly simple daily tasks provided constant enjoyment and non-sensibility during the representational task. Aside from this, more general graphical influences include the sci-fi work of Syd Mead and the constructivist art / architecture of El Lissitzky.

What is the reason behind the use of a monochromatic palette?
The monochromatic palette was fundamentally a response to the idea that architecture can be, or is, too monumental. We as architects place too much emphasis on the sculptural value of our design and less on the socio-political context on which it sits. Through a monochrome palette, emphasis remains ambiguous and all elements of the drawing, be it the building, its context and its users are read as one.

To what extent does the use of colour change the way an image is perceived? How could the use of colour within the perspective views help the viewer to enter the proposal?
I think colour gives us instantly recognizable feelings and emotions and on a deep level it engages our innate prejudice for design without necessarily the inherent justification for it. If through my drawings I used a variation of green hues to represent the concepts of agricultural growth, then one would generally assume from afar that the fundamental aspect of the project were about agriculture, when in fact this project, and many modern projects are multi-faceted works with many meanings and levels of which should be valued as equal. At multiple points I considered the use of colour as an engagement method for the proposal, however with this style I felt very much it is an all or nothing engagement. I never wanted to use colour and a post-rationalized colour use would seem unnecessary and excessive. However I can see the positives in increasing and enhancing the ability of the user to decipher each element in the drawing very quickly.

What dictated the specific views rendered? How do the people inform the image and proposal?
The specific views of each perspective were dictated by 2 elements, the child in every drawing as a means of showing user experience, as well as the concept of growth and how both elements could be balanced. I tried to show the user on a variety of scales right through large urban agriculture down to a more tangible scale. In a more pragmatic response each view was composed much like a photograph in the assumption that foreground, mid-ground and background are necessary to create the depth desired. The use of the individual in all instances was important as a narrative device. Throughout the project the people used are named and referred to through text pieces, using each individual and exploiting their narrative potential within the images. As before, on a pragmatic scale the use of the human form, as well as animals and insects can be a playful way to heighten both fore, mid and background.

How could the use of a specific format of a newspaper/ real estate brochure etc have reinforced the proposal? 

The format of the newspaper draws quite relevant linkages. The illustrations of Heath Robinson were found most commonly in the broadsheets and the satirical political view which they engaged with provided humor, but at the same time gave thought provoking messages about daily life. A stance I admire and respect.




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